Five for the Gator Bowl


Florida junior running back Mike Gillislee has rushed for 313 yards with two touchdowns this season.

Doug Finger/ Staff photographer
Published: Monday, December 12, 2011 at 11:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 12, 2011 at 11:50 p.m.

There is a way to take some of the sting out of what has been a disappointing Florida football season: Win the bowl game and finish with a winning record, as opposed to losing and finishing with a losing record.

Facts

Up next

What: 67th Gator Bowl
Who: Florida (6-6) vs. Ohio State (6-6)
When: Jan. 2, 1 p.m.
Where: EverBank Field in Jacksonville
TV: ESPN2
Radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850
Did you know? The Gators are making their 21st-straight bowl appearance, which ranks first in the SEC and second nationally.

Big difference there.

The Gator Bowl matchup with Ohio State is critical game for the Gators — and Will Muschamp's program. In his attempt to rebuild UF, Muschamp is desperately searching for some momentum to carry the Gators into 2012. A victory over Urban Meyer's future team certainly would accomplish that.




Here are five things the Gators can do in the next few weeks to help ensure they show up ready to play their best in Jacksonville on Jan. 2:

1. Tweak the offense

Now that Charlie Weis is gone and running backs coach Brian White takes over as the play-caller, this is the perfect opportunity to try and do some different things with what has been a dormant offense for most of the season. Like, maybe throw the ball to the wide receivers, maybe hand the ball off a few times to Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown (just to see what they can do), maybe keep the defense honest with some first-down throws. Just a thought. Muschamp has made it clear that White is going to be among the candidates to become UF's new offensive coordinator. This is his chance to make an impression, and maybe vault himself into the role of leading candidate for the job. Muschamp should turn White loose and see what he's got.

2. Get your grind on

Muschamp called his team mentally and physically soft after the loss to FSU. The goal is to be tougher next season, and UF can start working on that goal during bowl practices and in the game. The Gators need to get after each other in practice and establish a tough-guy mentality that they're not going to be pushed around like they were through much of the season (especially on both lines of scrimmage). In all areas, the Gators need to focus on being physical. These guys are big enough and strong enough to play that way. Time to do it.

3. A new Sharrif in town

The season-ending injury to starting defensive tackle Dominique Easley in the FSU game was a bad deal for him and the defense. But there's a chance for something positive to come out of it. With Easley out, sophomore Sharrif Floyd moved from end to tackle in the FSU game and appeared to be a dominant presence inside. He seemed to flourish at what appears to be his more natural position. Floyd was moved to end this season because of the lack of depth there. For the most part, he played solid on the outside. But he has a chance to be dominant on the inside. This is his chance to re-establish himself at tackle — which is where his future is.

4. Start planning for the future

Muschamp has said becoming bowl eligible was so vital because it basically gives his young team an extra spring practice. The Gators need to use these 15 or so bonus practices to start developing some of the promising young players by giving them more reps and maybe expanding their playing time in the game. The goal, of course, is to win the game, and the coaches will go with the players they feel give the Gators the best chance, including senior quarterback John Brantley. That's fine. But a lot of this bowl preparation should be based on how it can help the Gators beyond this game. That means getting some of the young players more involved (including freshmen QBs Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel).

5. Relax, play hard, have fun

For so much of the season, the Gators looked like they weren't having any fun out there. Hey, guys, this is college football and it's supposed to be fun. UF needs to work hard, prepare hard, then go out and play fast and have some fun in the Gator Bowl. Take away some of the self-inflicted pressure (and doubt) and maybe this team will loosen up and start making a bunch of plays. That's when football is fun.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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